MPEP 2164.08
Enablement Commensurate in Scope With the Claims

Ninth Edition of the MPEP, Revision 07.2022, Last Revised in February 2023

Previous: §2164.07 | Next: §2164.08(a)

2164.08    Enablement Commensurate in Scope With the Claims [R-07.2022]

All questions of enablement are evaluated against the claimed subject matter. The focus of the examination inquiry is whether everything within the scope of the claim is enabled. Accordingly, the first analytical step requires that the examiner determine exactly what subject matter is encompassed by the claims. See, e.g., AK Steel Corp. v. Sollac, 344 F.3d 1234, 1244, 68 USPQ2d 1280, 1287 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (When a range is claimed, there must be reasonable enablement of the scope of the range. Here, the claims at issue encompassed amounts of silicon as high as 10% by weight, however the specification included statements clearly and strongly warning that a silicon content above 0.5% by weight in an aluminum coating causes coating problems. Such statements indicate that higher amounts will not work in the claimed invention.). The examiner should determine what each claim recites and what the subject matter is when the claim is considered as a whole, not when its parts are analyzed individually. No claim should be overlooked. With respect to dependent claims, 35 U.S.C. 112(d) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, fourth paragraph, should be followed. These paragraphs state "a claim in a dependent form shall be construed to incorporate by reference all the limitations of the claim to which it refers" and requires the dependent claim to further limit the subject matter claimed.

The Federal Circuit has repeatedly held that "the specification must teach those skilled in the art how to make and use the full scope of the claimed invention without ‘undue experimentation’." In re Wright, 999 F.2d 1557, 1561, 27 USPQ2d 1510, 1513 (Fed. Cir. 1993). Nevertheless, not everything necessary to practice the invention need be disclosed. In fact, what is well-known is best omitted. In re Buchner, 929 F.2d 660, 661, 18 USPQ2d 1331, 1332 (Fed. Cir. 1991). All that is necessary is that one skilled in the art be able to practice the claimed invention, given the level of knowledge and skill in the art. Further, the scope of enablement must only bear a "reasonable correlation" to the scope of the claims. See, e.g., In re Fisher, 427 F.2d 833, 839, 166 USPQ 18, 24 (CCPA 1970).

With respect to the breadth of a claim, the relevant concern is whether the scope of enablement provided to one skilled in the art by the disclosure is commensurate with the scope of protection sought by the claims. AK Steel Corp. v. Sollac, 344 F.3d 1234, 1244, 68 USPQ2d 1280, 1287 (Fed. Cir. 2003);In re Moore, 439 F.2d 1232, 1236, 169 USPQ 236, 239 (CCPA 1971). See also Plant Genetic Sys., N.V. v. DeKalb Genetics Corp., 315 F.3d 1335, 1339, 65 USPQ2d 1452, 1455 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (alleged "pioneer status" of invention irrelevant to enablement determination).

The propriety of a rejection based upon the scope of a claim relative to the scope of the enablement concerns (1) how broad the claim is with respect to the disclosure and (2) whether one skilled in the art could make and use the entire scope of the claimed invention without undue experimentation.

An enabling disclosure may be set forth by specific example or broad terminology; the exact form of disclosure is not dispositive. In re Marzocchi, 439 F.2d 220, 223-24 169 USPQ 367, 370 (CCPA 1971). A rejection of a claim under 35 U.S.C. 112 as broader than the enabling disclosure is a 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph, enablement rejection and not a 35 U.S.C. 112(b) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, second paragraph, definiteness rejection. Claims are not rejected as broader than the enabling disclosure under 35 U.S.C. 112 for noninclusion of limitations dealing with factors which must be presumed to be within the level of ordinary skill in the art; the claims need not recite such factors where one of ordinary skill in the art to whom the specification and claims are directed would consider them obvious. In re Skrivan, 427 F.2d 801, 806, 166 USPQ 85, 88 (CCPA 1970). One does not look to the claims but to the specification to find out how to practice the claimed invention. W.L. Gore & Assoc., Inc. v. Garlock, Inc., 721 F.2d 1540, 1558, 220 USPQ 303, 316-17 (Fed. Cir. 1983); In re Johnson, 558 F.2d 1008, 1017, 194 USPQ 187, 195 (CCPA 1977). In In re Goffe, 542 F.2d 564, 567, 191 USPQ 429, 431 (CCPA 1976), the court stated:

[T]o provide effective incentives, claims must adequately protect inventors. To demand that the first to disclose shall limit his claims to what he has found will work or to materials which meet the guidelines specified for "preferred" materials in a process such as the one herein involved would not serve the constitutional purpose of promoting progress in the useful arts.

When analyzing the enabled scope of a claim, the teachings of the specification must not be ignored because claims are to be given their broadest reasonable interpretation that is consistent with the specification. "That claims are interpreted in light of the specification does not mean that everything in the specification must be read into the claims." Raytheon Co. v. Roper Corp., 724 F.2d 951, 957, 220 USPQ 592, 597 (Fed. Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 835 (1984).

The record must be clear so that the public will have notice as to the patentee’s scope of protection when the patent issues. If a reasonable interpretation of the claim is broader than the description in the specification, it is necessary for the examiner to make sure the full scope of the claim is enabled. Limitations and examples in the specification do not generally limit what is covered by the claims.

The breadth of the claims was a factor considered in Amgen Inc. v. Chugai Pharm. Co., 927 F.2d 1200, 18 USPQ2d 1016 (Fed. Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 856 (1991). In Amgen, the patent claims were directed to a purified DNA sequence encoding polypeptide analogs of the protein erythropoietin (EPO). The court stated that:

Amgen has not enabled preparation of DNA sequences sufficient to support its all-encompassing claims.... [D]espite extensive statements in the specification concerning all the analogs of the EPO gene that can be made, there is little enabling disclosure of particular analogs and how to make them. Details for preparing only a few EPO analog genes are disclosed.... This disclosure might well justify a generic claim encompassing these and similar analogs, but it represents inadequate support for Amgen’s desire to claim all EPO gene analogs. There may be many other genetic sequences that code for EPO-type products. Amgen has told how to make and use only a few of them and is therefore not entitled to claim all of them.

927 F.2d at 1213-14, 18 USPQ2d at 1027. However, when claims are directed to any purified and isolated DNA sequence encoding a specifically named protein where the protein has a specifically identified sequence, a rejection of the claims as broader than the enabling disclosure is generally not appropriate because one skilled in the art could readily determine any one of the claimed embodiments.

See also In re Wright, 999 F.2d 1557, 1562, 27 USPQ2d 1510, 1513 (Fed. Cir. 1993) (The evidence did not show that a skilled artisan would have been able to carry out the steps required to practice the full scope of claims which encompass "any and all live, non-pathogenic vaccines, and processes for making such vaccines, which elicit immunoprotective activity in any animal toward any RNA virus." (original emphasis)); In re Goodman, 11 F.3d 1046, 1052, 29 USPQ2d 2010, 2015 (Fed. Cir. 1993) (The specification did not enable the broad scope of the claims for producing mammalian peptides in plant cells because the specification contained only an example of producing gamma-interferon in a dicot species, and there was evidence that extensive experimentation would have been required for encoding mammalian peptide into a monocot plant at the time of filing); In re Fisher, 427 F.2d 833, 839, 166 USPQ 18, 24 (CCPA 1970) (Where applicant claimed a composition suitable for the treatment of arthritis having a potency of "at least" a particular value, the court held that the claim was not commensurate in scope with the enabling disclosure because the disclosure was not enabling for compositions having a slightly higher potency. Simply because applicant was the first to achieve a composition beyond a particular threshold potency did not justify or support a claim that would dominate every composition that exceeded that threshold value.); In re Vaeck, 947 F.2d 488, 495, 20 USPQ2d 1438, 1444 (Fed. Cir. 1991) (Given the relatively incomplete understanding in the biotechnological field involved, and the lack of a reasonable correlation between the narrow disclosure in the specification and the broad scope of protection sought in the claims, a rejection under 35 U.S.C. 112(a) or pre-AIA 35 U.S.C. 112, first paragraph for lack of enablement was appropriate.); Pac. Biosciences of Cal., Inc. v. Oxford Nanopore Techs., Inc., 996 F.3d 1342, 1352, 2021 USPQ2d 519 (Fed. Cir. 2021) (The court found that undue experimentation was required to enable the full scope of the claims where there was ample evidence that relevant artisans would not know how to perform the claimed invention for more than a narrow range of the claimed scope of invention).

If a rejection is made based on the view that the enablement is not commensurate in scope with the claim, the examiner should identify the subject matter that is considered to be enabled.